[uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?

Jeff McNeill jeff at jeffmcneill.com
Thu Oct 25 20:52:23 PDT 2007

Aloha Paul, et al,

Microformats won't fix any display problems that folks have, but could
help with say the problem of searching for a given formula across
semantically marked up content.

However, since the problem to be solved seems to be rendering the math
visually, with a variety of ways of doing that, would a microformat
require all the formulations (aka mathml, texvc, mimetex) to provide
support for yet another markup?

(Paul, I recall your comments on my blog entry trying to implement
just such rendering on a mediawiki install

You are right, it is a mess. Not sure how microformats could help, though.

Jeff McNeill

On 10/25/07, Paul Topping <pault at dessci.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm trying to determine whether microformats is the right venue for
> developing a standard math representation within HTML.
> Back in '98, many of us involved with the W3C's MathML standard had
> hopes of it being widely supported within most browsers in a few years.
> That has sort of happened. MathML is supported natively within Firefox
> but users experience font problems and it only works if pages are XHMTL,
> rather than HTML. My company's free MathPlayer plugin makes MathML work
> in Internet Explorer. MathML support is still missing from Safari,
> Opera, and other browsers. People interested in publishing math on the
> web still find serving up pages as XHTML challenging (getting the MIME
> type right, etc.). Some websites, blogs, and wikis convert TeX or LaTeX
> to images on the server to handle equations in content. Quite frankly,
> the space is a mess.
> Regardless of whether the math is represented using MathML, TeX, LaTeX,
> or some other notation, it is important to expose the mathematical
> structure behind the equation to the client in order to support
> accessibility (ie, allow screen readers to speak the math) and
> interoperability (eg, allow users to copy equations from pages into
> Mathematica, MS Word docs, MathType, or new pages). What is needed is a
> consistent way to associate an underlying math representation with its
> visual representation regardless of whether it is a GIF or PNG image or
> MathML formatted by the browser (or a browser plugin).
> This seems like a job for a microformat but I must admit that I have
> limited knowledge of the microformat philosophy. On one hand,
> microformats embed semantic representations in HTML in a practical but
> rigorous way. On the other hand, in most (all?) microformats the
> representation is visible in the browser. In the kind of representation
> I'm imagining, the user won't actually see the actual MathML or TeX code
> in the browser window.
> Thoughts? Is microformats the right place for this kind of thing?
> Paul Topping
> Design Science, Inc.
> www.dessci.com
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